In the description for my last WIPP submission I stated: “Watford, a commuter town between city and countryside.” I feel that I only really had half an awareness of what I meant by this in the sense that my focus on the work has been focused on the collection of portraits (Fig: 1), which I believe is one of my strengths however, potentially at the detriment of other elements of the project considered only secondary (Fig: 2). There needs to be a more focused development on these other images within the broader narrative of my work.
Alys Tomlinson has discussed that within her own investigations, the relationship between the people and the land that they inhabit is of fundamental importance, which is why she remain fixed to a location and explores within (2019). The link in the land to the people could start with investigating Watford as a commuter hub and also in its position between countryside and urban; at what point does the countryside become suburban, and then urban. I feel that it would be good to resolve the idea of a place between places; especially as we are undergoing some fundamental societal changes, which place different priorities on the commuter associations of Watford ad what Malcom Beynon et al refer to as ‘Rurality’ (2016), yet not something that necessarily quantifiable, as Weisheit et al note: “Like concepts such as “truth,” “beauty,” or “justice,” everyone knows the term rural, but no one can define the term very precisely” (1995, p. 6).
An area of research I am finding useful is in the agency of the object, or specifically the impact that the qualities of the object have on the construction and the reading of the image. My focus for the last module was in the portrait but also in the medium that I chose to create the work. I took special care to really consider the qualities of the black and white image and see how it has a fundamental impact on the outcome of the image. In my feedback, there was a question of ‘flatness’ in the presentation of the photographs, something which, I felt was reflective of the place that I am photographing however, something that I did not spend enough time discussing in my reflections. It would be useful to experiment with different methods of editing. I also made connection to the location of Watford through the use of design and colour of my zine, this can continue through the use of medium; I have been photographing on Kodak film, which had a significant presence in the area. Watford was also between two Kodak production sites in Hemel Hempstead and Harrow, continuing the link to the place and the idea of being in between.
My aim was to start drawing attention to the process of the photograph to somehow separate it from the sea of images and also create an awareness of it being photographed. Black and serves this purpose because of its contrast to the concrete world as we perceive it. The switch black and white also represents an opportunity to re-visit some of the initial work that I undertook to see if there are any locations that would be worth re-visiting. This would be useful research tool in order to re-consider anything overlooked previously.
Beynon, M., Cawley, A. & Munday, M., 2016. Measuring and Understanding the differences between urban and rural areas, a new approach for planners. Environment and Planning B. Urban Analytics and city Science, 43(6).
Tomlinson, A., 2019. The Messy Truth – Alys Tomlinson on Awards [Interview] (11 November 2019).
Weisheit, D. R. A., Wells, D. L. E. & Falcone, D. D. N., 1995. Crime and Policing in Rural and Small Town America: An overview of the issues, s.l.: National Institute of Justice.
For this module, I intend to focus my research into testing a number of ideas ready for the FMP. I have spent the last three modules looking at the idea of community and my connection to it, which has been fairly outward in its focus when actually, my work is about me. My aim is to broaden my reading to consider theory outside of the field of photography. For example, Ferdinand Toiness defines two types of community: Gemeinschaft (family, personal, emotional connection) and Gessellschaft (societal, impersonal, civic connection) (2001). My project has been very much based in the Gessellschaft and I realised during the break that I should also consider more of an emotional and personal connection to the work that I am creating, which could result in a stronger body of work.
My feedback reflected this for the last module in how I need to create more metaphor in my non-portraits, which also create a link between the people and the land they inhabit. My research will center on this and bring in anthropological elements to hopefully make the links I am currently lacking
I also have a number of plans to produce work, either directly from my research projects, or related to the ideas that I exploring in more of a commercially focussed way. As David Campany notes: “The commercial images that survive their principle function are the ones that are better than the principle function required, or deserved” (2020, p. 26), which suggests that it is possible to create meaningful work that exists in both the commercial and conceptual spheres, yet able to transcend the context of commerciality.
Tomlinson’s work is deeply rooted in research and underpinned by her anthropological approach to her subjects. Her own MA was in the field of Anthropology and it was during that time, which she created the body of work ‘ex-voto’ (Fig:1) Her use of black and white is what drew me to the images in the first place and how she discussed the way that she made this switch from colour from a need to slow down her practice and be more considered. The initial work that led to the switch then became part of her research and informed the final body of work. Tomlinson had an increased awareness of the location she was photographing and how the people were linked to the land, which she was able to consider from all of the initial visits to the location and also the initial images, even if they are in colour.
Schutmaat’s approach is based in the first-hand experience of the area steeped in its own mythology (Fig:2). Schutmaat avoids detailed research into the history of a location and instead reads regional literature and works to understand the culture by observation and also by talking with local people and spending time where people are. Schutmaat’s approach is in the construction of the place, which is supported by an overview of the area beforehand. This creates discovery, and as he put it “inventing a sense of place” (Schutmaat in Pollock: 2011) Although, in interview, Schutmaat is trying to steer away from the idea of a research based approach, it is clear that it exists in his images. It makes sense to look at regional literature that might seek to create an ideal when Schutmaat is working to create a mythology in his work.
Applied to my practice
Tomlinson takes a very anthropological approach to her photographic work, clearly driven by her own Anthropological background. When looking at the forum for this week, it is clear that anthropology is an area of significance when considering photographic studies that explore concepts similar to my own research project – connection, identity, community. I aim to bring this area of research into the centre of my reading for this module and start to see how the theory can really underpin and clarify what I am aiming to achieve within my own work.
I find Schutmaat’s approach to researching his subjects quite interesting too. The use of literature about an area and the culture could prove useful to developing my research project. It is something that I did – without realising – during informing contexts as I utilised Junichiro Tanizaki’s ‘In Praise of Shadow’s’ (2001) to support the development of my project during the lock down period. A more focused approach to this could be useful and finding material and literature that is set in the area that I am trying to photograph.
Campany, D., 2020. On Photographs. 1 ed. London: Thames and Hudson.
Pollock, D., n.d. BRYAN SCHUTMAAT. THE PROCESS OF DISCOVERY. [Online] Available at: https://urbanautica.com/interview/bryan-schutmaat-the-process-of-discovery/348 [Accessed 22 September 2020].
Tanizaki, J., 2001. In Praise of Shadows. London: Vintage.
Tönnies, F., 2001. Community and Civil Society. Translation ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
I have started to draft out my oral presentation. The Pecha Kucha method is actually quite freeing in many ways. It makes it a lot easier to piece together the presentation and make edits, for example. Trying to cram in everything that I want to say in 20 seconds per slide is proving to be the biggest challenge, however.
I have made a fist draft of my presentation. I think that it is moving in the right direction but unsure at this point if I am covering the learning outcomes. I have spent time discussing my use of black and White and how it creates significance in the image and draws attention to the act of photography. This module, I have spent a great deal of time invested in the development of the aesthetics of my project through how I produce the images.
Peer feedback on Oral Presentation
I asked my peer group to watch my draft presentation and give me some feedback on any improvements that I could make:
It is excellent, Phil. But I do feel the pace is slightly too fast.
Phil -your presentation is v good, it seems to cover all requirements – it’s a good pace and nice range of images. It defo keep me engaged.
It didn’t feel rushed at all – very clear and good pace. I didn’t check the no of slides or length but it sounded really good. I liked the parts where you talked about having to deal with change.. and also the ref to the sunday supplement printing trad locally! Great thing to link to your zine! I thought it was excellent.
Brilliant job very well done!! HCP does an exhibition called on the fence check it out when you get a min think that that would really work for you. I note your portrait on the fence!!
The only thing I’d suggest is slowing down your speech – it’s too fast to take it all in.
It’s really great to get such positive feedback on my presentation. I do agree that the pacing of some of the narration of my slides is on the fast side. I have been very keen to get all of the information into the 20 second window per slide that actually it is starting to have a negative impact on the delivery and the ideas being communicated effectively. This is something that I may need to edit down slightly in order to focus on a quality delivery and be assured that the information that is omitted is available in my CRJ.
To link to my research project, I would be keen to run a workshop about creating work within the community. This could potentially be about how to approach people and places within the community and identify the cultural signifiers that make that place unique and why you are drawn to it – the reason why you want to take the images in the first place.
I am still getting to grips with grounding my project in this area, so I think the workshop would be just as important for me as it would be the participants. Especially. Plus, if the participants were also from the same community that I am making my work it would create valuable insight into how others perceive the same place, which I also live.
My workshop would comprise of peer discussion and Q&A to establish prior knowledge, understanding of socially engaged photography, and provide me with an opportunity to outline any learning outcomes and introductions. The workshop should take a day to complete, including practical time to go out and start to create images with the potential for a later plenary, or online presentation of work once participants have had the opportunity to create imagery.
My project has taken a number of turns throughout the three modules and now for this one I have decided to explore black and white film photography, which creates a big departure from the way that I was photographing my project up until now. This development is how I am starting to move away from a more commercial way of shooting, linked to my comfort zones.
Sequencing is one of my biggest challenges and although I have been putting together a zine in time for Landings, I have not yet started to look at how my work will be edited ready for the next WIPP submission.
Considering formats for publication, I have always quite like the idea of postcard sets as they acknowledge how a reader of the work might create their own narrative from the work. They are quite nice to spread out and do the same as this task. The downside is that the standard postcard is small compared with many books and the quality of the image may be lost in this small format.
I am interested in books as they create a tangible object from the photographed and can be carefully sequenced in a way that the author intended, should that be a primary concern for the project (as opposed to postcards). The challenge with the book is the limitation this might put on the accessibility of the project. Only available to a few people who can afford it and accessing the creation of such a publication where many publishers expect the photographer to contribute to the cost of producing it.
I have been looking at my own book collection for some inspiration into potential exploration into publication.
I very much enjoy photo books and collect them enthusiastically. It is worth noting however, that the photo book might not be an effective end in itself, as it can be quite a limiting format to display work. There is a great deal of prestige in having a book published of course and I would absolutely love to have one of my own. The audience for these books is quite limited however and it is important to understand this before chasing this as an output for a photography project, which should consider other ways of presenting work and making it accessible.
The primary market for photography books is other photographers, which the demographic is notably white middle-class. This has been one of the reasons why Simon Norfolk, for example, stopped producing books as a matter of course, noting that they are more about an insular self-congratulating between photographer that does not look outside its own bubble (2019). Norfolk is quite damning, but makes a solid point, if you are producing a body of work, especially one that is socially concerned, having 300 books produced will not reach enough people. There is an argument for the photography book as a way of opening doors into other avenues of publication, for example Vanessa Winship’s ‘She Dances on Jackson’ (2013) also has features on the BBC (Coomes, 2013), and The Washington Post (Dickerman & Winship, 2018) with the latter being published in 2018, long after Winship’s book has sold out and a collectable rarity. Of course, any work by Winship is going to have a life beyond its limited publication, however this is an example of how a body of work can continue to reach audiences beyond its printed origin. There may be a need to consider the secondary market for photography outside of photography. Hoxton Mini Press are quite good at creating these and I have regularly seen copies of Jenny Lewis’s ‘One Day Young’ (2015) in parenting shops.
Understanding that I would ultimately like to produce a photo book, however also considering that the project must exist outside of only that format is important for the effective dissemination of a photography project. This is another good reason for my Landing exhibition to be displayed online as it makes the work accessible to all with the option to purchase a limited-edition zine for anyone invested in collecting and rarity.
Looking at different binding and publication options
Knowing and understanding that I have no authority in the reading of my work by others, postcard sets present a really interesting way to present a body of work. I have used this method in the past as a marketing tool to send out to potential editors. One of the biggest draws to this format is the ability to spread the work out in front of you and create your own narratives by placing images together (Fig: 1). The challenge of the book is that the sequence is fixed to the linear journey through the book format. This was pointed out by the curator of Jack Latham’s ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society (2019), who stated that the audience of the exhibition had free reign to create their own version of the narrative, which very much suited the conspiracy and mystery of the ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ work. Postcards have the advantage of being a tangible art object, which is not limited by any sequenced narrative of the author. The size of a standard postcard makes them ideal for mailing out to potential audiences and buyers of work, however the size could be considered limiting as it is quite a small size compared to many other books.
Lewis Bush produced a postcard set of his work ‘A Model Continent’ (Fig: 2), which is glued on one edge to be flicked through as a book. It is quite delicate and potentially designed to be taken apart by the reader, however I have tried to keep them together. This continues the idea of the object having rarity but removes any advantage that the postcard had as a flexible narrative presentation.
Saddle Stitch Binding
In 2015, Portrait Salon created an interesting concept for its exhibition catalogue, which links to the flexibility of the postcard. The book was essentially a sticker album where you would have the book and a pack of stickers that could be placed in any way that you wanted (Fig: 3). This created a method of giving the audience agency in the way that the work could be read and placed together. Once the stickers are placed they are of course fixed.
Saddle Stitching might come across as lower quality than a traditional case bound book. It is much more accessible financially however and can be created as a very high-quality art object in itself. For example, Sadie Catt’s book ‘Woodstock’ (2019) is a beautifully produced saddle stitch book with a very nice finish (Fig: 4), which has been stitched not stapled (Fig: 5). I also really like the letterpress wrap that creates a greater sense of the book’s quality.
Ewen Spencer’s self-published book titled ‘Open Mic’ (Spencer, 2005) is perfect bound and creates an exhibition catalogue aesthetic (Fig: 6). This is another method that is more accessible to self-publishing and does make the resulting publication look more professional over many saddle stitch books that can come across looking like zines. What I find challenging when reading through Spencer’s book is when an image is printed across pages, much of it can be lost to the gutter of the book (Fig: 7). This feels like it is because of the binding method that is quite tight and does not open out.
Considered the best binding technique (Philipson, 2017), it creates a significant sense of the quality of the book. As an object it seems to denote the significance of the photography within and understanding the hard work that goes into getting a book published, there is also the prestige of having the work in a hard cover book. I have a few Hoxton Mini Press books who’s aim is to create high quality but accessible books, primarily focused on East London (2020). The covers are generally linen with an image (Fig: 8) and smaller in size than many of the books that I have. The size compares to Spencer’s ‘Open Mic’ but is more easily read and images viewed (Fig: 9).
Unfortunately, my ability to experiment with publication is limited by the current situation, however I was lucky enough to have some printed pages from the previous modules and a printed-out PDF book dummy I made prior to the MA to use.
I am fairly used to creating PDF books using InDesign, however printing them out is not something that I have been too concerned with up to this point. The challenge is getting the pagination correct when setting up the printer (Fig: 10), which was my aim when I printed these out. I still have some research and development to do in this area as although I was able to work out pagination for saddle stitch (Fig: 11), I could not get the case bound version to print correctly without setting up a separate InDesign file for each of the book’s signatures (Fig: 12).
I created a saddle stitched booklet using black thread with holes I punched myself. A little uneven without the correct tools for the job but useful to understand the process (Fig: 13). My finished book is rough but works, albeit with some loose pages (Fig: 14).
Figure 13: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Saddle Stitch outcome
Using some of the lessons learnt from the saddle stitch, I have also created a booklet from the signatures I set up, without a cover for now. Each signature is essentially a saddle stitched booklet, which is then sewn together in order and glued. Again, mine is very rough but works well as a booklet (Fig: 15)
I would have liked to have made these experiments with my current work in progress research project, however it has been really valuable to explore and better understand the differences between bindings. Moving forward, I think that i am still very keen to produce my work in a physical medium. As I am waiting for the delivery of my Landings Zine (Fig: 16), I can use these lesson to develop that process and refine it ready for my WIOPP Submission for this module.
Figure 15: Phil Hill (July, 2020) Case bound binding test
Bush, L., 2016. A Model Continent. 1 ed. London: Self.
Catt, S., 2019. Woodstock. 1 ed. Frome: The Lost Light Recordings.
Coomes, P., 2013. Each picture paints 1,000 words in Vanessa Winship’s US photos. [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-22508301 [Accessed 15 July 2020].
Dickerman, K. & Winship, V., 2018. Deeply poetic photos focus on the nexus of ‘chronicle and fiction’. [Online] Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2018/06/06/deeply-poetic-photos-of-the-junction-between-chronicle-and-fiction/ [Accessed 15 July 2013].
Hoxton Mini Press, 2020. About Us. [Online] Available at: https://www.hoxtonminipress.com/pages/about-us [Accessed 15 July 2020].
Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories. Bristol: Royal Photographic Society.
Lewis, J., 2015. One Day Young. 1 ed. London: Hoxton Mini Press.
Norfolk, S., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers [Interview] (12 June 2019).
Philipson, S., 2017. WHAT’S IN A BIND? 4 TYPES OF BOOK BINDING – PROS AND CONS. [Online] Available at: http://blog.ironmarkusa.com/4-types-book-binding [Accessed 15 July 2020].
Spencer, E., 2005. Open Mic. London: ESbooks.
Winship, V., 2013. She Dances on Jackson. 1 ed. London: Mack.
As my intention for the Landings exhibition was to not compromise locations and spaces to show my work, I decided to focus on an online exhibition, which I discussed earlier. Owing to the nature of the online exhibition, I still wanted to offer some kind of physical object (Fig: 1).
I wanted the design to be minimal so not to distract from the images (Fig: 2), however, to maintain the link to the place, I have chosen to create the cover background using yellow, and the typeface in red, both from from the Watford town coat of arms (Fig: 3), and more commonly associated with the Watford football team (Fig: 4) and can be seen all over the town. As my images are black and white, these are the only elements of colour in the series.
The typeface used is called ‘Calendas plus’ in Bold by font foundry Atipo (Fig: 5) and is also going to be used for the landing page of my exhibition and also in the social media promoting the show. The typeface is a clear serif that links again back to newspaper headlines and Watford printing. To maintain the minimal style of the zine, the cover only displays the title and my name, and some additional information on the back as well as a QR code, which links to my website (Fig: 6). My design for the cover was inspired by ‘Out of Place’ books, who have employed this kind of cover for a number of their zines, including ‘Spark’ by Andy Pilsbury (Fig: 7) and ‘This Must be the Place’ by Daniel Lyttleton (Fig: 8). The books that ‘Out of Place’ produce are primarily about places, and those not normally photographed, so I feel that my own journey through Watford may have an audience there.
As mentioned above, I have also produced a landing page for my exhibition, which also utilises the same cover design as my zine (Fig: 9). This creates a consistent branding that should feel more professional when clicking through whilst also providing a differentiated experience other than just viewing my existing web galleries on my website. The landing page utilises a simple enough HTML coded index page that has the same typeface embedded into the page and a fade in code so that the title is not too abrupt on visiting.
After working in the successful collaboration during the week 3 zine making task, we all wanted to have something tangible and decided it would be great to print the zine out for us all to keep. Additionally, Tim suggested that this could coincide with the Landings exhibition to add value to our exhibitions.
This meant that we would need to seek a printer produce what we had created digitally. The initial version of the zine was 24 pages (or 12 spreads) including the longer fold out page in the middle (Fig: 1). The idea behind the fold out was to create something memorable and interesting at the heart of the zine, the challenge with this is the printing cost associated with creating something so unique meant that it became far too expensive to produce. We instead came back together to re-adjust the layout to maintain some of that same interest but also allow it to be printed for a reasonable amount (Fig: 2). It has been a useful exercise to go through the process of trying to get the zine printed as it is useful to understand these kinds of challenges before attempting to get one of my own completed.